I grew up in an era in American history where I rarely saw “me” in the media. Occasionally in magazines or books, every blue moon on tv (usually on the news in a negative light) and restricted to a paragraph or two in textbooks. I knew and understood what “flesh colored” meant in a box of Crayola crayons. My father hated the Clorox commercials that talked about clothing being “whiter than snow” and we weren’t allowed to watch old Shirley Temple movies where she danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson because it was overtly racist in his mind. I was the “black”, “ugly” kid at school…who was smart. Looking back, I wonder how I managed to process all of that without learning to hate the world.
Times have changed. The America of the 60s has passed away and although there are still moments of severe ignorance out there, mainly, I believe in an effort to restrict growth and to return to the “glory days” of “majority” dominance, I love what I see when I look in the media. My favorite overheard conversation after Black Panther was released was between a young boy and his mother in a store:
“Ok ma, how about you just rent an apartment in Wakanda and we move there?”
I have, upon occasion, mentioned that I would like to see more representation of people of color that is authentic and true in textbooks and learning media. And its coming slowly. Then the daughter of a friend posted this video on Facebook the other day:
We were all, naturally, appalled. This is out there in the universe for someone to show their children. NO child should be exposed to this crap.
It got me thinking though. We can just as easily control the content our children of color see as anyone else, can’t we? The discussion around the video we had on FB touched on creating content, POSITIVE IMAGE content for children of color. Like I said, its been in the back of my mind for a while now. This video took me to my research and design mindset on the matter. We must do better. We must represent people of color in a positive light so our children of color can see themselves in that positive light and know that they have worth, just like others.
So, adding something new to the things to do this summer that will impact the next school year, start making some media that represents. I’ve put the feelers out there. I’ve talked to my illustrators and artists about doing some stuff for me. We will make this happen, one project at a time. You can help me. If you know an animator or writer or illustrator that wants to get their feet wet (I’d love to work with someone just starting out), drop me a line in the comments.
And, as MY new personal hero from Black Panther would say: